How hard should you run ?

I'm relatively new to running and training for my first half marathon currently, doing about 30 miles a week with my long run about 12 miles. I ran a 10k race on Sunday in 46 mins which I was very pleased with.

My question is ... should I feel totally drained at the end of a race as if I cannot run another step ? I didn't feel this way, and now I'm wondering if I should have run harder (and faster)?

Does everyone else race at flat out speed ?

Thanks for any advice x


  • Alison,
    That's a great time - you have lots of potential. Well Done.

    Unless I feel sick or am actually sick at the end of a race I have not run hard enough. The race is for a set distance and no longer.

    But, most training session sshould be easy.

  • I would say the goal is to pace it so you are knackered at the end of the race. trouble is, that's a lot harder than it sounds and takes quite a lot of experience to judge. You probably could have run harder and faster but it's a fine line between that and going off too quick and dying before the end (which tends to give a slower finishing time)! At the end of a 10k I would expect to feel or be sick and have to spend several minutes recovering my breath, not wanting or being able to talk. After 5minutes though I could set off for a jog.
  • It's sprint finishes which make you sick at the end of races, guys, because the liver can't cope with the sudden extra demand or some such.

    Alison, there's no 'must' about it, you don't have to push yourself to the limit; however, if you want to aim for the best time/position you can achieve, you should be pretty tired at the end. But it will inevitably take time to learn how to pace yourself to achieve that without blowing up, and I would err on the conservative side to begin with. Also, how quickly you recover inevitably reflects your fitness.

    Well done on your 10K debut.
  • Thanks for your advice !

    I guess the key is that practice makes perfect ? Whilst I was pleased with my run on Sunday now that I am dissecting the race I'm feeling a little disappointed.

    Crazy thing is if someone had said I would have run 46 mins I would have bitten their hand off so to speak !
  • It also depends on the distance.

    IIRC, 10km is optimally run at your aerobic/anaerobic threshold, so probably you'd want to spend the last mile feeling like you were going to die (assuming you want to go as fast as possible).

    With 5km you want to feel like you're going to die all the way through.

    With a marathon, you're in trouble if you feel like you want to die at any time before 20 miles!

    Sensible runners, of course, slow down when the going gets tough...
  • For your first 10K I would say you did everything right. You were very pleased with your time, not knackered or distressed and motivated to do another race in a quicker time. As you run more races you'll become accustomend to race pace and will target specific races when you will run really hard (and it will hurt and you won't like it) as you try for a PB. But not all races will be like that
  • themoabird makes a good point about the distance.

    deffo on a 10K you should feel like your about to cough up a lung come the finish, Anything left in reserve should be used in the last mile. Then when youve got nothing left try and sprint the last 100m.

    If all has gone well when you initially stop at the finish line you should feel dreadfull for a bit :-)

    congrats on the time by the way impressive.

  • Really impressive time. I think it was probably close to perfect in that you know you ran hard, but finished wanting to do another and still motivated. I tend to agree with JFB.

    It sounds like you will have plenty of races, and each will have their different goals and outcomes. Some races will disappoint if you dont go all out to the point of total exhaustion and others will have different purposes. I'd say, just keep going! Enjoy!
  • It basically depends on what you want out of it. If you want to run close to the limits of your absolute best possible performance, be prepared to feel like sh@t immediately after finishing. I used to feel like I could not carry on if the finish straight was any longer, even by 20m, and my usual finish was to hit the line, carry on running rapidly decelerating, then find somewhere to lie down!

    However, racing to your limits each time can become quite draining and also lead to you dreading the pain that is associated with racing, and really detract from your enjoyment, so I agree with Tony - you don't want to do this every race, only do it when you're trying for a PB.
  • No pain no gain:-)
  • There's some races where no pain, no gain is essential, but there's others where I'm quite happy for the no gain!:o)

    Well done on your first 10k Alison. I'm sure with more experience you'll know exactly how to judge your pace to achieve what you want. It seems you didn't do a bad job on your first race. Keep up the good work!

    Happy running:o)
  • 'So yer sposed to feel uncomfortable at the end?'

    Only if you're daft enough to be chasing PBs.

    The thing is that after a while extra training, etc., ceases to have an effect; we hit our physiological limits. ( People on here may tell you otherwise; they're wrong! :) ) At that point, the only way you can get faster is to try harder. It then gets very ugly.
  • Tom.Tom. ✭✭✭
    Thermoabird, I'm sorry but I totally disagree with what you are saying. With an attitude like that, you should settle for recreational running, and leave the serious stuff for those who believe that training and racing hard really do work.

    In saying this, I'm sure I speak for the many "People on here who may tell you otherwise; but they're wrong!"
  • Tom.Tom. ✭✭✭
    Sorry Thermoabird, just read your profile - I see you are a recreational runner (oops!)
  • When after a while your training ceases to have an effect, then you alter your training routine.

    Sorry, that would be `daft', trying to be the best you can.
  • Yeah I just read it - if you get those times as a recreational runner you could really kick ass if you gave running a serious go for a year or so. I'd be curious to know how could I could be with times like those off 4-6 runs per week.
  • "and leave the serious stuff for those who believe that training and racing hard really do work."

    Yeah, you gotta love that serious stuff...

    Totally disagree? Hmmm. So you reckon we don't hit physiological limits, eh?

    What a strange world you must inhabit...
  • BR

    The serious answer to your question about being daft is that I think there can be something almost pathological about the obsession which *some* people have with PBs.

    So tell me, when you're cold and bored running your 70th mile of the week, don't you ever wonder why you're doing it all?

    Also, I just don't buy the idea that changing one's training is always going to work. There are physiological limits.
  • Tom.Tom. ✭✭✭
    "What a strange world you must inhabit", My strange world is based on the believe that while I am continuing to improve, I should persevere with my training. It may sound silly to you, but the reason I train is to race as fast as I can, hence the desire to achieve PBs.

    Incidently, for someone who thinks its daft to chase PBs (if I interpet your comments correctly), you chose to quote yours from 5k to 10M on your profile. Why would you do that?
  • Actually, I think I want to respond more assertively to the daft thing.

    My father-in-law was a pretty good runner (52 mins for 10 miles). But having run this time in his late 20s he was convinced he could be better. He never got any faster. And it has had a major effect on the way that he views his running career. He cannot look back at it with any fondness. He now regrets the 120 miles weeks he put in because he wanted to run as fast as his friends (who were internationals). He considers himself a failure; and because his self-esteem was tied up in his running, this sense of failure has infected the rest of his life.

    So yes, I think trying to be the best you can be can be daft, if it turns out the way it has for my father in law; if it means that you can never be satisfied with what you've achieved.
  • "I should persevere with my training."

    What's that got to do with whether we have physiological limits?

    You said you disagreed completely...

    "Why would you do that?"

    Actually, because I figured it would save the effort of having to mention them in threads like this (not that you've asked, but you might have done!).

    "I should persevere with my training."

    Maybe I'm misrembering, but didn't I see you on another thread saying that you weren't at all sure that it was worth the effort you were putting in?

    Sorry if I am misremembering...
  • Tom.Tom. ✭✭✭
    Thermoabird, two points in response. Firstly, in the light of your posting, I apologise if my responses seemed over zealous. I can certainly appreciate how your father in laws experience would influence your views.

    Secondly, I'm probably the same age as your F-I-L, being 56. I trained hard and ran very competitively, at a similar level. At the age of 28 I gave up running to concentrate on my family and career. At that time I was running sub 51 mins for 10M, but had come to the conclusion that I was never going to run any faster - in that sense I don't have any feeling of shortcoming or failure - I'd done the best I could - time to move on. Perhap F-I-l, never came to terms with this.

    Twenty five years later, I returned to the sport, with more time on my hands to train. I'm probably more commited to my training and ambitious about my racing performance now than I was then - despite the fact that I'm running much, much slower. I suspect that this is now driven by a feeling that I never really achieved my potential when young (realistically this is probably a myth). In that sense I am now just starting to develope a a sense of disatisfaction about my running career - at the end of it. This compares with your F-I-L sense of disatisfaction all those years ago. Perhaps its this sense of disatisfaction that drives runners to carry on striving, even when the goal is unachievable, or as you put it the "daft pursuit of PBs". I mean, why should a 56 year old runner put himself through the training to enable him to run at the same pace of a reasonably talented 18 year old!

    By running standards your performance levels are quite impressive. If, as it seems you are slightly dismissive of them, seeing them a means for developing your squash playing, can I ask you how much importance you place on being a good squash player, Perhaps it all boils down to a question of priorities, and the ambitions you have for your squash playing may be just the same as some of us have for our running.

    I hope you can read this posting as a more measured response to the points you have made.

    Sincerely yours
  • Tom.Tom. ✭✭✭
    You're quite right, I have expressed doubt about whether it's worth all this effort - that reasonably talented 18 year old thing. I suppose I think that as long as I am improving (ie not yet reached my physiolgical times), I'll carry on banging away at it.

    Sometimes I wonder if I could achieve the same performance on lower levels of training - perhaps when the improvement starts to be incremental, I'll think otherwise.
  • Hi Tom

    Thanks for that.

    First off, I wasn't being entirely serious with my original daft comment (there is a smiley somewhere in that post).

    I think the fundamental thing here has to do with how much cognitive distance (if you'll pardon the pretentious phrase) we have from what we're doing. My F-I-L's problem was that he was absolutely defined by his running. Consequently, it was never really going to end well for him; there was always the theoretical chance he could be faster; there were always going to be people faster than him; and he could never really come to terms with this. At least, I don't think he could; I've read his early running diaries, where he dreamed of running the 1976 Olympic marathon - he was really hard on himself because he couldn't get the improvement he wanted, etc...

    For me, it's different. I can separate my sport from the rest of my life; my self-esteem isn't tied into whether I fulfil my potential (partly because I fundamentally disagree with the idea that there is any moral requirement to fulfil one's potential at anything).

    So I train hard - I'm on a 50 day training streak (though only 5 runs a week) - and when I race, I race to be as fast as possible. But, in the end, it doesn't really matter all that much to me...
  • "Sometimes I wonder if I could achieve the same performance on lower levels of training"

    That is a terribly seductive thought. :)

    I hope you get your sub-60 10; that's what you're after next, isn't it?
  • "why should a 56 year old runner put himself through the training to enable him to run at the same pace of a reasonably talented 18 year old!"

    And, of course, there is an answer to this; because a large part of attraction of running is that it is about, as far as possible, mastering our own limitations. It isn't about comparisons.

    Plus, you'll really irritate the 18 year olds as you go by them. :)

  • When I'm on the 70th mile of a training week I rarely question why I'm doing it. Every run I do has a specific purpose in terms of improving LT, recovery, VO2 max etc.

    If I do question why I'm doing it, the answer is because I want to achieve the goals I set myself, or get as close to them as possible. It's because I want to beat people I've never beaten before.

    It's because I want to look back and think I achieved my potential.

    I agree that no one has a moral duty to achieve their potential. In many areas of life (eg work) I'm happy to chug along at 75-80% for now. However I usually have one thing in life I'm very committed to. For the last 5 years it is running. Previously it has been other sports and hobbies. I look back on those with satisfaction in that my efforts achieved something worthwhile. I will do when I pack in running.
  • "or get as close to them as possible."

    This doesn't apply in your case, but the trouble is that many runners think:

    a) That improvement will always be possible;


    b) Somehow they're faling if they're not improving;

    consequently, having set themselves unrealistic goals, they beat themselves up for not achieving them. If it is also the case that running is terribly important to them, in terms of their identity, self-esteem, etc., it makes them miserable and regretful.

    I'm quite surprised that people don't seem to recognise this personality type. It wasn't that unusual in the running circles I used to mix with.
  • Tom.Tom. ✭✭✭
    Themoabird. Thanks for your interesting and provative posts again. Congratulations on not using the "O" word. I'm sure that both BR and myself, and as you say several others on this site, do exibit behaviour that at times borders on the obsessive. (I am commited, you are commited, he is obsessive....). I suspect that you need to be little bit like that to keep banging away at it day after day, even when progress has become incremental.

    Again a couple of examples. F-I-L probably remembers Ian Thompson, the Tracey Morris of his day, the club runner who in 1974 apparently came from nowhere to win both Commonwealth and European marathon championships. Suddenly loads of club runners began to think "why not me", I know I did, although I think (?) I realised that it was an ambition based in fantasy. Despite that, I still attacked my training with renewed vigour (well, you never know...). Perhaps F-I-L was bitten by that dream. Fired up by Thompson's exploits I did run a marathon - Milton Keynes 1976 in 33C heat, probably the single worse performance of my entire running career - all that training and for that! Despite the memory of the good runs I have had, the nagging thought of that race still stays with me - so in that respect I'm not really so different from F-I-L.

    About 7 years ago, I started to learn to play the guitar. I very quickly realied that I had absolutely no aptitude for it what so ever. I'm not being modest - no matter how much I persevered, I was never going to get to grips with it - ever! Despite my obvious shortcomings I persevered, practising virtually everyday for four years, in the obstinate belief that my hard work would be rewarded by progress. I was clearly exhibiting those charactor traits that influence my additude to running - and what's more I wasn't even enjoying it. I gave up on it in the end, when I came back to running. It's very hard to be obssesive about two things at the same time. I replaced my unhealthy obsession with a healthy one! The guitar now stands in the corner, and every now and again I pick it up, strum a few chords and think to myself "yeah, maybe I should have persevered with that".

    I like to think that I'm a reasonably well adjusted guy, with a healthy, but slightly absurd attitude to his chosen sport, but its obvious (even to me), that my obsessive alterego is lurking there, waiting to pounce, when I lose perspective. If at anytime, you read any of my postings that suggest that my head is starting to disappear up my @rse, feel free to administer a gentle rebuff.

    Best wishes

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